I’m so excited to interview one of Novel Rocket’s own team members! Gina, this is your debut book. Tell us about it.
Buried Deception is my novella in the Cherry Blossom Capers collection and is about a Mount Vernon archaeology intern and widow Samantha Steele who wants to make a good impression at her orientation, but her babysitter gets sick and she’s forced to take her rambunctious children to work. There she has a run in with security guard and ex-cop Nick Porter who’s haunted by his past. Through several mishaps, a forgery is discovered, and it’s up to Samantha and Nick to set aside their stubbornness, and rely on each other to catch the thief… or the results could be deadly.
Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment to spark this story?
I can’t remember the specific “what if” moment, but back in 2005 I was homeschooling and took my children on an east coast tour hitting all the historical spots. Mount Vernon was one of them and as I was walking through the mansion, especially George Washington’s office, I kept thinking about the antiques and if they were real or replicas. Later, when I wanted to try writing a mystery I kept coming back to Mount Vernon. We were also studying Egypt and archaeology at the time, so I thought it would be fun to explore the “What if someone discovered that an artifact at the Mount Vernon mansion was a fake?” The characters, story, and plot just grew from there.
Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?
It’s hard to remember since I started this novella back in 2006…Hopefully I left all the strange and funny things for my novella!
Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
I had reverse writer’s block, if that’s even what you’d call it! When this novella didn’t sell the first time, I added 36,000 words and pitched it to some other houses. It didn’t sell. Then my anthology partners wanted to submit to Barbour again, I was reluctant. If it sold, that would mean cutting it down and the story had evolved since the originally novella. But I agreed and a week after we submitted, we had a contract. So instead of banging my head against the wall to ADD words, I was banging my head hoping to figure out how to CUT words. After many months of editing and cutting and editing and cutting some more, I finally did it! And I’ve been told it’s a fast paced page turner. And it better be because there was no room for fluff! LOL!
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
The only visuals I use are in my mind. I see the scene and write what I see. Oh, I tried making charts and plotting and spent hours looking for my characters on website, but for me, it was just a waste of time. I have to write in a void. No music playing. Just the hum of the overhead fan. Then I tune into the pictures in my brain and let the scene play out before me.
Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
Writing is the most difficult part of writing for me. I get distracted by life and social media. I also believe the lie that I need a huge chunk of time to get into my story world. If I could discipline myself to write a little bit every day, I might write faster. But I’m still a mom carting around four kids to different activities, and I have other hobbies of my own I’m pursuing. I actually prefer to write in big weekend chunks, though I know there will come a time when I’ll have to write every day. I’m sure another contract could help me over come this procrastination problem!
What’s your strength in writing (characterization, setting as character, description, etc)?
I like to think characterization and voice are my strengths. I’m not crazy about reading setting or descriptions, so my writing is usually lacking in those areas until I go back and add them in later. Yet, in the case of this novella, I had to slim down in every area. It was tough deciding how much description and characterization was enough. But I like to think part of the fun for the reader is filling in the blanks and allowing the character to come to life in their mind. In my opinion, too much description inhibits this.
Did this book give you any problems? If not, how did you avoid them?
When you’re writing a mystery, there’s always problems of the facts and clues not adding up. Several times I started to confuse myself with the mental puzzle I was creating and since some of my evidence used math, it took me several times to think it through to make sure it added up. There was police and archaeology procedure I needed to get just right, and I had to take into account that this was a contemporary story located in an actual place people visit. Last time I went to Mount Vernon The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center wasn’t built, but after talking with an archaeologist on site, I realized I needed to add the building into my story.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
My primary writing space is in my office on my red couch or at my desk. But when I need a change of scenery I write at a coffee shop, sometimes the public library in one of those study rooms when I need to shut out the entire world. Several times a year I hide away in a roach motel and try to crank out 10,000 words. In fact, I can write more in one of those weekends than in an entire month!
Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?
Yes and yes. Sometimes the words flow…other times it is like pulling a stubborn hair from my brow! But the best thing I’ve learned over the years is NOT to edit while I’m writing. This is so hard for me and probably why after seven years I only have three finished manuscripts and a bunch of half completed ones. It’s because I always had to edit before I moved on. Now I’m learning to move on before I edit. One trick I use to satisfy my internal editor is to
strike out the crummy drivel I’ve written, the stuff I KNOW I need to change or completely remove later. By striking through the words I trick my brain into thinking I’m on track with my word count and I’m moving forward while my editor is happy that I’ve recognized the garbage I’ve just written.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
I remember Randy Ingermanson saying that it was okay to write bad. Then my agent, Chip MacGregor, solidified this for me by saying “You can’t fix nothing.” Those two pieces of advice have really helped me let go of the perfection mentality of editing while I write. And it’s helped me write faster.
How do you balance your writing time with family and any other work you do?
I have an entire blog and six years of my life devoted to trying to figure this out. I’ve interviewed over a hundred writing moms and dads and the one thing I’ve learned about balancing writing with family is that it looks different for everyone. For me, the amount of writing I do goes in seasons. There was a time in the beginning my priorities were skewed. I put writing before everything else and I got out of balance to the point that I had to lay down my writing for a season. After seven years of struggling to find balance, I’ve finally found freedom in the seasons of life. I don’t sweat not writing when I can’t, and I try to focus on what’s in front of me. Of course, it’s still a struggle, but I try to keep things in perspective. There will be a time when my kids will be grown, and I will have the time to write. For now, I’m embracing this season of life and the time I have with my kids.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Don’t ever give up on your dream. It’s not an easy road, but I believe if you learn and grow, and never give up, you’ll be one step closer to where you’re supposed to be.
Cherry Blossom Capers Summary:
Four townhouse neighbors encounter romance and mystery near our nation’s capital. In State Secrets, White House assistant chef Tara Whitley and FBI agent Jack Courtland stop a plot to sabotage a State dinner—and find love still hidden in their hearts. In Dying for Love, attorneys and opponents Ciara Turner and Daniel Evans uncover love while searching for justice. In Buried Deception, archaeologist Samantha Steele and security guard Nick Porter dig up love while uncovering a forged artifact. In Coffee, Tea and Danger, amateur sleuths Susan Holland and Vince Martinelli find love while investigating a string of mysterious accidents.
Gina Conroy is the founder of Writer…Interrupted where she mentors busy writers and tries to keep things in perspective, knowing God’s timing is perfect, even if she doesn’t agree with it! She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.